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Data Sharing – Courting Customers the Old-Fashioned Way

Big Data

I never thought my personal information could lead to the courtroom, but for some curious consumers, it may.

This is what is indicated, anyway, in events described in recent news reports. Consumers who have requested their personal data from telecom service providers or other utilities were politely told, “Thank you, but not without a subpoena.” Somewhere along the path to creating the industry we now call Big Data, organizations apparently decided they have more right to a customer’s personal information than does the customer.

It defies logic to me that any company that benefits from gathering consumer data wouldn’t be willing to share those insights with its customers. Fortunately as I read on, I learned that some organizations do, and they even offer their customers tools to make the most use of that information – to create utility for the consumer.

All of which gets me pondering the “what if” question: A lot of companies use customer-provided information to create value for themselves, but what if they made all that data available to the customer, essentially creating a platform upon which they can elevate the entire brand experience? Would a more open system of data create a more powerful consumer cooperative?

Such efforts are forming today. Intel recently introduced a venture that encourages organizations to welcome consumers as participants in the information economy, using a site called WeTheData.com as an aid, according to a story in the New York Times. And the regional supermarket chain Meijer offers an app, called Find It, that organizes the customer’s shopping list to align with the most convenient route through a given store. Even better, if the consumer goes off course, the app will automatically adjust the list.

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That’s sharing the customer’s data in a way that directly benefits her.

Such forward-thinking initiatives, wherein the consumer is seen as a collaborator and not merely a source of insights, will be required for the data-science industry to grow prosperously. If we operate with uneven philosophies, wherein only some organizations invite consumers to review their information for the purposes of better interactions, then those that choose the non-communal approach will likely get shut out.

It is, after all, easier than going to court.

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